Dr Mike Evans

Netayanu, Zelensky expected to talk soon by phone

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are expected to engage in a phone conversation this week to reach an agreement regarding the upcoming Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, a city in Ukraine.

Diplomatic sources disclosed this information on Wednesday, although the precise timing of the call is still being negotiated.

A Ukrainian diplomat had previously indicated that a decision concerning Ukraine’s policy towards Israeli pilgrims was anticipated over the weekend, as tens of thousands of worshipers traditionally embark on this journey for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

In August, Israeli authorities reportedly dismissed a warning from Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, who had threatened to close Ukraine’s borders to Israeli pilgrims traveling to Uman in response to Israel’s deportation of Ukrainians. These deportations were related to cases in which Ukrainians entered Israel ostensibly as tourists but were suspected of planning to stay or work illegally. Israeli officials cited a lack of basis for these threats, indicating that senior Ukrainian government figures had clarified their stance to Israeli counterparts.

However, a Ukrainian official conveyed that there were voices in Kyiv advocating for a more assertive response against Israel. The official also noted that a definitive statement from Israeli Interior and Health Minister Moshe Arbel assuring the protection of Ukrainians could help alleviate the concerns of Ukrainian officials seeking to reciprocate Israel’s actions.

In response to the situation, an Israeli diplomatic source accused Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk of exaggerating deportation figures and undermining the good relations between the two countries. Ukrainian President Zelensky had previously stated that the “rights of Ukrainian citizens must be guaranteed” when addressing the treatment of nationals in foreign countries without explicitly mentioning Israel. Ambassador Korniychuk later clarified that Zelensky’s message was directed at Israel.

The impending phone conversation between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Zelensky holds significant importance in resolving these issues ahead of the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage, a vital event for religious observance by thousands of pilgrims.